18 March 2020, The Tablet

A triumphant trilogy that airbrushes history

A triumphant trilogy  that airbrushes history

Cromwell – a reinvented iconoclast
Photo: PA


Thomas Cromwell’s downfall and death provoke a profound sense of loss

The Mirror and the Light
(4th ESTATE, 912 PP, £25)
Tablet bookshop price £22.50 • Tel 020 7799 4064

Justifying the long wait, this superb novel concludes Hilary Mantel’s three-volume rehabilitation of the chief architect of the English Reformation, Thomas Cromwell. Snappy dialogue (“I thought the duke was very pleasant to me this morning. Considering we were killing his niece”), rich evocations of the period and leisurely flashbacks to Cromwell’s past are all delivered in that familiar, mannered Mantel voice, poised somewhere between the lyrical and the macabre. Her account is studded with arresting images and poetic passages as closely observed as a Dutch still life. A handkerchief is “scattered with the Howards’ silver crosslets, light as summer snow”; when Henry recoils from his fourth wife, “the waves of the Narrow Sea rustle like sheets, whispering through Europe news of Henry’s incapacity”; the gift of a marmoset displeases Anne Boleyn: “Someone in pity had made it a little wool jacket. Like a nervous petitioner the creature was shredding it with its nails: it shrank and twitched under the lady’s hostile glance.”

Get Instant Access

Continue Reading

Register for free to read this article in full

Subscribe for unlimited access

From just £21.50 quarterly

  Complete access to all Tablet website content including all premium content.
  The full weekly edition in print and digital including our 179 years archive.
  PDF version to view on iPad, iPhone or computer.

Already a subscriber? Login